Icing Recipes

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Having the right icing for the job is very important. Below are the common icing recipes and their appropriate use.

Decorator's Buttercream Icing
For making roses and decorations that must maintain their shape, you'll need an icing that maintains its consistency. Since butter softens at room temperature, using all vegetable shortening works best in decorator buttercream icing. Also, not using any ingredients that are quickly perishable means this icing will keep at room temperature.

1 cup solid vegetable shortening
1 pound powdered sugar(make sure it's proper sugar, not a sugar substitute)
1 tablespoon meringue powder
1 teaspoon vanilla--use clear vanillaif pure white icing is needed
2 tablespoons water

Mix all ingredients with an electric mixer until smooth and creamy, scraping down bowl as needed. An optional pinch of salt can be added to help tone down the sweetness. If using, dissolve the salt in the water so stray grains of it don't wreak havoc in your icing later. If using a stand mixer, this recipe can be doubled.

This yields about 3 cups of icing stiff enough to pipe roses and figures. Adding 1 teaspoon of water per cup of icing (or a tablespoon to the entire recipe) thins the buttercream enough for piping stars, dots, basketweave, borders such as shells, and smaller flowers with flat petals.

Adding an additional teaspoon of water per cup (2 teaspoons per cup or 2 tablespoons to the entire recipe) thins the icing to where it's ideal for icing cakes and piping smooth lines.

If you're only going to be icing the cake and piping simple decorations, then Easy Buttercream will work just fine. Since it has butter, it will soften at room temperature and have a slightly yellow tint to it.

1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened
1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening
1 pound powered sugar
2 tablespoons milk (or water)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Using an electric mixer, cream shortening and butter. Add vanilla, sugar, and milk/water. Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, scraping down bowl as needed.

To make a simple Chocolate Buttercream, add 3/4 cup cocoa powder (or 3 ounces of melted and cooled bittersweet chocolate) and an additional 1-2 tablespoons milk to the buttercream icing above.

Royal Icing is used to make flowers, lace, and other decorations in advance. It's also great for decorating cookies and used to make gingerbread houses. It sets up hard and dries very quickly, so it must be kept covered when not in use. Make sure all utensils bowls are clean and grease-free by washing in hot, soapy water and wiping with clear vinegar. Any residual grease will break down the icing.

3 tablespoons meringue powder
1 pound powdered sugar
5-6 tablespoons warm water

Mix all ingredients at low speed for 7-10 minutes. This is important. If the icing isn't mixed enough then it won't hold its shape. Also, be careful not to let it get too thing. Just a little bit of water will make a big difference in this icing. Start off with just 5 tablespoons of water, then gradually add more if necessary after beating for at least 7 minutes.

Snow White Buttercream is a good cross between royal icing and decorator buttercream. The extra meringue powder causes it to dry firm, without being brittle and rock-hard like royal icing. This recipe makes 7 cups, but it can be halved.

2/3 cup plus 3 tablespoons water, divided
1/4 cup meringue powder
3 pounds powdered sugar, divided
1 1/4 cups shortening
3 tablespoons clear corn syrup
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons clear flavorof choice

Dissolve salt in the 3 tablespoons of water. Combine 2/3 cup water and meringue powder and beat with an electric mixer at high speed until peaks form. Add 4 cups sugar, one at a time, beating on low speed to avoid a powdered sugar snow storm in your kitchen. Add remaining sugar and water, along with shortening and corn syrup, in 3 additions, beating well after each. Add flavorings and mix until smooth.

Marshmallow Fondant is a great option for those who don't like the taste of commercial rolled fondant because it pretty much tastes like marshmallows, and you can add in your own flavorings. The consistency is a little different, but when you need it to taste good, this is a more economical option than ordering gourmet rolled fondant. There are plenty of flavor variations on this basic recipe; a Google search will give you many results. It's easy enough to make, so you can play around with it and come up with your own.

16 ounce bag mini marshmallows
2 pounds powdered sugar
4 tablespoons water
shortening for greasing the bowls
Optional: flavoring of choice (vanilla, lemon, etc)

Grease a large glass or microwave-safe bowl, and microwave the marshmallows and water on high for about a minute (keep an eye on it since microwave ovens vary) until they're melted. Stir. If using flavoring, now would be a good time to add it.

Grease the dough hook and bowl of your mixer really well with shortening. Put about 3/4 of the powdered sugar in the mixer bowl with all of the melted marshmallows, and mix on low speed for a few minutes. If the mixture is still sticky, add some more powdered sugar and mix until incorporated. Keep adding powdered sugar until the fondant is the right consistency--neither sticky nor dry.

Place the fondant on work surface and knead until smooth and all sugar is thoroughly mixed in. Wrap in plastic wrap and let rest until ready to use, preferably at least an hour. Keep sealed in plastic wrap so it doesn't dry out, and knead before using. The recipe yields around 3 pounds, enough to cover and decorate up to a 9-inch cake.